A second Arch of Titus found

The Arch of Titus which stands at the entrance to the Roman Forum draws huge crowds who want to see this well-known monument that was erected in memory of the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple in 70 AD.

The Arch of Titus. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

The interesting part is the scene portrayed on the southern intrados (inner curved side of an arch) that shows Roman soldiers carrying away the spoils of the Jerusalem Temple, i.e. the Lampstand (menorah), the Table of Shewbread and two trumpets.

The south panel showing the spoils taken from the Jerusalem Temple. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Today it was reported in the Telegraph newspaper that another monumental arch dedicated to Titus was found in Rome at the southeast entrance to the Circus Maximus.

Although these remains have been known for some time, they have now been more fully excavated.

The Circus Maximus. The original ground level of  was 6 meters (20 feet) lower down. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

The remains of a triumphal arch built in honour of the Emperor Titus have been unearthed from underneath Rome’s Circus Maximus chariot-racing arena.

The arch, which was built immediately after the emperor’s death in 81AD, would have formed a magnificent entrance to the Circus Maximus, where charioteers competed against each other in races that were depicted in the 1959 Hollywood epic Ben Hur.

View of the Circus site from the south-east. The remains of a column base and parts of fluted columns that belonged to the Arch of Titus had been visible in the near foreground before the excavation took place. The tower in the foreground is part of a medieval fortification. Photo: Wikipedia

The bases of four giant columns were found underground in an area that is prone to flooding. This picture shows one of them:

The excavated remains of the great Arch built for Emperor Titus at the Circus Maximus. Photo: Handout

A CAD drawing of how the great Arch at Circo Massimo may have looked.

The excavation site is now covered up until funds can be raised to reconstruct this monumental marble arch.

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7 Responses to A second Arch of Titus found

  1. For the record, the chariot race in the 1959 film was actually shot near Rome, Italy—that is true enough. The race happens (in the movie) not at the Circus Maximus in Rome, but in Jerusalem’s “circus” with Pilate in attendance, no? On the other hand, in the original 1880 book, author, Lew Wallace set the chariot race at Antioch!

  2. Avi says:

    Dear Prof.

    Would you have any theories as too why it took Titus younger brother Domitian to build the Arches and continue minting Judea Capta coins after his brothers death.

    We know that Titus minted his own Judea Capta coins, so why would he have not built the triumphal arch himself as most Emperors like to build bragging rights monuments while they still lived. Titus lived for 10 or 11 years after the capture of Jerusalem.

    I thank you

    Avi.

  3. Avi,
    The arch at the east end of the Circus Maximus was the real triumphal arch built in the last year of Titus’ life, i.e 81 AD. The better known Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum was built by Domitian one year after the death of his brother Titus when he was deified. This is shown in the central panel of the arch where Titus is depicted to be taken to heaven by a large eagle. Domitian clearly wanted to continue the Vespasian dynasty.

  4. Daniel, from what I read it appears that in the movie the race was indeed performed in the Circus Maximus. Recently there was a proposal made to remake the film with the race in the Circus Maximus again, but it was not allowed for fear of damaging the ancient site, see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2986596/Ben-Hur-producers-BANNED-filming-remake-Rome-s-ancient-chariot-racing-arena-Circus-Maximus.html

  5. Daniel Wright says:

    Respectfully, the Daily Mail writer(s) did not do their homework, or they are confused, or they are using the term ‘Circus Maximus’ as a generic term. Without a doubt, the chariot race in the 1959 Ben-Hur film was actually filmed on a movie set, constructed in 1957-58, near Rome, Italy — at the Cinecittà Studios about 9 km SE of the ‘real’ ancient Circus Maximus archaeo-site. No one has shot any movie races at the ancient site and the new remake of Ben-Hur under way sought to do so, but were turned down. The 1959 Ben-Hur race was indeed shot at the Cinecittà studio.

    Also, the race happens (in the movie’s story-line) not in Rome at all, but at Jerusalem’s “circus” with Pontius Pilate in attendance—at the end of the race, he presents Judah Ben-Hur with the victory laurel right there before a cheering Jerusalem (Jewish) audience, just after he defeats Messala. Also … in the original 1880 book, author, Lew Wallace, set this chariot race neither at Rome or Jerusalem, but at Antioch! Bottom line? There were multiple ‘hippodromes’ and ‘circus’ around across the Roman empire.

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  7. KTR says:

    I would think Caesarea Maritima would have been an equally plausible venue.

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